Give Yourself A Little Grace
By Jen Holman
Do you ever feel like you’re dogpaddling through life, like you’re barely keeping your head above water and if you take on one more thing you’ll surely sink? Is this the plight of parenting? Of mothers? Do we all feel overworked, overscheduled and overcommitted?
I often feel like I’m doing everything halfway, and none of it is great. I get frustrated and down on myself when things fall through the cracks. I should be more organized, I think. I just wasted an entire hour on Facebook. But Suzy’s mom bakes. I forgot to sign the kids up for soccer and now it’s too late. We had pizza three nights last week. The uniform isn’t clean. We don’t read to the kids enough. I can never find time to work out. I forgot to pay the gas bill. I should call my mother more. The car is 2,000 miles overdue for an oil change.
So. Many. Things. It’s easy to work ourselves into a frenzy when we’re hustling to do it all. But do we have to? Do it all, I mean.
We think we do, especially for the first child or two. (By the third, they practically raise themselves.) We plan to make our own baby food, to be the Best Room Parent Ever, to do every single thing, and do it all perfectly. Instagram and Pinterest abound with unrealistic images that pressure us to do more, to be more. But, aren’t we enough?
We are. It’s taken me this long, but I’m finally learning to allow myself some grace. Grace to simply be enough, and to forgive myself when I fail. Grace to lower my own parenting expectations and be all right with that, to not consider it yet another failure. Because it’s not. There’s no first-place ribbon for parenting the hardest. The reward is happy kids whose synapses all connected properly because their mom wasn’t a miserable wreck.
The pressure in my chest began to ease when I finally realized I already had the one thing necessary to define what it means to be enough—instincts. The same ones that told me when it was time to stop nursing or to make a change in sleeping arrangements. The one I count on to know when my kids are old enough for a sleepover, or to talk about the birds and bees. My instincts said all the peripheral stuff was just noise, that what really mattered were the tiny moments when I put my phone down and listened. What really mattered was taking the time to teach my daughter to cook instead of rushing through it to move on to the next thing on the schedule. My instincts said, I know what is enough, not social media, not society, and not other moms.
The hard thing about frustration is it has a way of compounding. It piles on and piles on, and with each day brings one more thing we know we won’t do as well as we should. When we feel like we’re failing, it’s hard to love ourselves. But as long as we’re trying, we are enough. You are enough. I hope you’ll consider giving yourself a little grace.
The first-place ribbon for parenting is happy kids!